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Rebecca: Hello and welcome to the Pragmatic Live podcast series where we tackle the biggest challenges facing today’s product management, product marketing, and other market and data-driven professionals with some of the best minds in the industry. I’m Rebecca Kalogeris, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Pragmatic Institute, and your host for this episode. Today we’re joined by Marcus Andrews Principal Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot, and we’re going to just kind of dig in, as from a practitioner’s view on the street, how product marketing is handled at HubSpot – welcome Marcus.
Marcus: Thank you very much for having me, Rebecca.
Rebecca: First, to give everybody some context, why don’t you give us just that brief rundown of Marcus and how you got into product marketing.
Marcus: Yes, my name is Marcus. I’m a principal product marketer here at HubSpot. I have been at HubSpot for a little over four years and before that was at Google for three years in sort of a go-to-market role and how I initially got started was I was working on the services team at a startup called Wildfire and I moved into kind of a sales enablement roles is probably eight years ago and I just started doing, you know, I started doing the kind of work that looks a lot like product marketing today – so I was building decks, I was kind of telling the story of the product, I was working with sales teams in that way that they would bring me into the pitch to kind of really bring a product to life and that was around the time I think when I’m when I was like, oh, this is really interesting work, you know, what is this field actually? And it was it was product marketing it looked at it smelled like product marketing. So I moved into that in Google when this startup had acquired and then four years ago, I joined HubSpot, to really, really focus on that. So yeah, that’s how I got into it and I’ve been doing it for quite a while now.
Rebecca: Awesome. So one of the things in my role here at Pragmatic and one of the things we see all the time is that product marketing is not always the same company to company. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about product marketing at HubSpot, and what areas, in particular, your group is focused on.
Marcus: Yeah, absolutely. So, the way we think about product marketing at HubSpot, is that we’re really here to sort of tell the story of the product and HubSpot is an interesting company because around, probably around five years ago or a little bit after I joined, we really went through this big metamorphosis of being a really Marketing and Sales-driven company to moving to be a product-driven company, so we had a really big investment in the product and the engineering teams around four years ago and we introduced, you know, a freemium business line we entered. We went from just being kind of a point solution to having a full suite of products to having a platform of products and so all of this has happened over the last four years, and really the product marketing team is kind of evolved and been changing and adapting along this journey, the whole time but the core thing that we really do is that, you know, we’re marketers and we’re in the marketing org but we’re aligned to different product teams and different product lines and we really help bring the story of that product to life.
That could mean a number of things but it mainly comes through and in great product positioning and messaging, go-to-market plans and product launches that we develop with the product teams and then bring to the larger marketing team and sort of turn a launch event into a bigger product story than it would be without us and we really focus on, you know, taking something that is kind of features and a combination of features and turning into something that’s really clear and defensible and interesting and a great campaign from a marketing perspective.
Rebecca: Awesome. So let’s talk a little bit about how we go from features to features speak to product story or a brand story. What is you guys’ process internally for that? This was a big role!
Marcus: Yeah, no we think a lot about it so, I mean, the first thing that we do with product teams a lot where I find myself getting more and more involved as years go by, is that I think there’s always this question of what are we launching and like what I guess it’s a packaging question, so you know a feature will come out and it’ll be interesting, but I think there’s always a discussion to be had around like, can this be bundled with other features?
Is there a bigger, more interesting story here to the market that we could tell that’s outside of just this one feature?
And I think that works pretty well generally speaking. There may be a feature that comes out that’s just, you know, amazing, and we can launch it and it’s interesting, in and of itself, but for the most part, we’ll start to combine things and we’ll tell a story that’s a larger than just the feature from like a market level, so it taps into some. I think that the key to making a feature launch interesting is it has to tap into some larger narrative into something that people just care about at a broader level and as long as it’s coming from, you know, based in the product, initially you can tell a really great story that’s product-driven and it can be interesting on this like higher-level taps into like a larger narrative.
Rebecca: So how do you validate that story that you’re building for a launch that it’s the right one?
Marcus: That’s a great question. I mean, we do, we should be more strategic. This is something where I think I, I wonder if a lot of the other product marketing teams I’ve talked to, I think, facing similar challenges, but research and just being as strategic as possible.
The nice thing about HubSpot, is we have great product teams with good user researchers and UX designers, and product designers who will do a ton of customer interviews beforehand. So we generally know a lot about our target market and our customers going into something like this.
And then I think we look in the market for validation. You know, I think we always want to tell an interesting and unique and differentiated story but we don’t want to just make it up. You know, I think we’re going out and we’re looking to see what’s happening in our space.
I specifically work on our services line of products at HubSpot, so it’s important for me to know, you know, what are the trends and what are the big issues and what are people talking about events and conferences in this space and I really, you know, do that by talking to a lot of customers, reading a lot, you know, going to conferences watching talks and just making sure that I’m well informed and I’m like my ear to the ground.
And then it’s a lot of also research in terms of, you know, under really understanding our audience really understanding the market and then maybe you know more and more too we’ve also started to do message testing so we’ve got some researchers on our team who can do some cool kind of like multi-variant message testing.
So if we wanted to, we want to test a specific product name or a specific tagline, we can bring it to an audience of a few hundred or so and pick different options versus each other will do that for we’ll save that for kind of larger launches.
It’s mostly just about being informed and doing your homework and really talking to customers and talking to the people you’re trying to reach
Rebecca: So it’s a lot about the information you get upfront that helped you build the messaging less so about testing it right away, though, again, you do have options for figure launches, which can combine both the qualitative and quantitative approach to that, which I think is, it’s pretty exciting. And it’s a great way of staying focused on being market-driven.
Marcus: Yeah. To your point, though, there’s definitely a lot you can do, you know, a launch is usually a specific day or a specific week or you know timeframe, but often we’ll start to introduce an idea into the market or like into our customer base beforehand.
So if we know we want to talk about self-service solutions and, you know, we’ve got a knowledge base product that’s launching, we can start writing about that and we can start building that into our, you know, our content strategy months or quarters beforehand and it’ll help us understand what people are interested in, you know what people actually care about, what isn’t working at all. And that’s smart. We don’t always do that. But it’s a great point.
Rebecca: But I think you also make a good point about launches that, it’s so many of today’s when you have a platform as a product you’re releasing features. Regularly, constantly times on a daily basis.
Rebecca: Each one of those isn’t necessarily a launch right there’s sort of a difference between a release and a launch and what you put together as a package story, how you guys map those two together?
Marcus: Yeah, so that is 100% true at HubSpot. We have a big product team and they are constantly working on things. And I think we’ve found over the years that you really do want to, to me, at least, I think that when you have something that’s really important it’s better to kind of save your launches and put a lot of effort into them versus having something come.
I’ve seen some startups and some companies do a launch every week, for instance. And to me it is interesting and exciting at first, but then it just turns into noise pretty quickly. And you’ve kind of cried wolf too many times. You know, it’s like people stopped listening after a while so I think there’s a balance that’s unique to kind of every company for that.
For us, you know, it’s a lot of our marketing team too. And so we want to activate – when we do a launch. We want our entire marketing team activated, we found that if we can get everybody aligned and all the vectors pushing in the same direction, rowing in the same direction for a launch. You can have a huge impact. But to do that there’s really only support for that you know bandwidth to do one of those a quarter, probably.
We can do one all-in massive launch a quarter and have 100% buy-in. And so we would rather do that than try and fit in three or four and only get kind of buy-in.
So for us, we have that kind of built-in prioritization system there and it just kind of forces you to also then be more strategic so your product team could come to you and say, hey, we’ve got this really exciting launch that’s happening in this month. And I can come back to them. And I can say, all right, what if you combine those two launches, you’re talking about we tie it into this more interesting narrative. And then we have more buy-in for that to do a larger campaign for the quarter and that that’s always really effective.
So I think that’s one component and then the other. The other component is just the impact of the of the future. The announcement at launch, you know, which is usually like revenue impact, how many users, it’s going to affect, kind of the opportunity sizing of it was something that we’re, we’re trying to get better at to help us prioritize how we address that issue.
And what metrics do you guys use, or do you guys use metrics, just to kind of determine which launches were the most successful?
Marcus: Um, most successful. Yeah, I mean, usually there’s a revenue number attached to everything we do not necessarily there’s, you know, we have a free product which is super important. And then it’s more of a for user acquisition but usually there’s this bump that we see whenever we do a campaign that’s been pretty consistent in my time here, usually there’s like a benchmark of a good product marketing launch will equal like a certain amount of pop, you know, call it like 100% increase over the like current numbers that you have so for us it’s mostly benchmark. We try and benchmark our launches. And so, you know, because not everyone is the same. Some will have more revenue, more like more of a revenue numbers and will be a user number, some maybe you know it’s an awareness thing that we’re trying to do.
But we try and look at benchmarks across the launches and then say, all right, if this. This is the benchmark. Have a good lunch. Let’s compare it to how the current when we’ve done is working out and then see where it nets out so it’s hard because the metrics that we’re tracking for each launch can be tough, but their typical metrics you know it’s revenue, it’s users acquired its, its reach its users activated those kinds of numbers we try and benchmark it and can compare campaigns against each other.
Rebecca: So as part of your launch plan to then do you have a sort of sales enablement and sales training piece of it that your group handles?
Marcus: Yeah, absolutely. So recently, we’ve got a few people who look after that full time who are closer to the sales team people who sort of came up through the ranks of the sales team. But absolutely, it’s they’re a really important partner for us. So we have a we have, we put together sort I put together a sort of a plan with that team. So when a launch happens have a certain scale there’s things that they expect from us and things that we expect from them. So from us it’s usually like a lot of it is really driven by good video now so it’s, you know, good internal training videos demo videos that they can use that can hopefully be turned that easily used as an external resource for the sales and service team. And then also just really clear information around pricing and packaging.
Think. HubSpot’s now, you know, a multi-suite kind of platform company. So the challenge a lot of the time is just like how do we make this extremely clear for the sales and service teams like how this impacts the details of different packages and how pricing works and that sort of stuff. So we supplied them with that information. I really like to get involved in, you know, team meetings and trainings and that sort of stuff and talk to the sales and service teams too but yeah, usually we kind of supply them with that information and then they bring those out to the sales and service team. The trainings and materials and like mechanisms that they’ve built to help get the team ready.
Rebecca: You said that on the flip side that you guys had expectations from them for a lot. What do those look like?
Marcus: Yeah, so those really are around keeping kind of the external pitch materials up to date. You know, so that’s another big challenge I think probably a lot of product marketers and sales enablement people face is that you know, I think the sales team really leans on us for good communication materials, but they’re often like very quickly out of date. And so I think whenever there’s a new launch. It’s like you got to go through. You got to make sure the core things are updated whether their product pages or pricing pages or, you know, one-pagers your internal resources. So that’s one component of it.
The other is just really like good clean information and so though they will have a lot of questions. Usually, especially the sales engineering teams. I always like to take all the information and as a first step, get it out to our sales engineers because they will ask every single question that has ever been thought of is related to the pricing and packaging or product details. And we use that as a way to just kind of pressure test it. And then we’ve got really good clean information. So those are two big things. There’s also depending on the launch could be, you know, like a product explainer video or a piece of brand content just depending on the launch, but usually, it’s those two things, it’s external pitch resources and then pricing and packaging information.
Rebecca: Well, and I would think that the quarterly launches aren’t only because you get fatigued in the market if you have good to do a launch is actually think it can be very hard for the sales team as well, right, to get their attention to keep them up to date if we’re just constantly releasing new things to them you know they’re running trying to hit their numbers and build the revenue. I think that can be hard on them as well.
Marcus: Yeah, absolutely. No, I think we see that just like the marketing team and the sales team in the service team are very similar. They’ve got so much going on that. If you can space things out it helps them, but also you can get them way more excited if you say, look, this is the one thing that we’re doing this quarter. And we’re going to give you a ton of direction and ton of focus and everything you need to make this happen.
You get that kind of alignment, especially when it starts at the leadership level and you’ve got sales, marketing, and service all aligned with whatever the product is building, then you’re really product-driven and you’re really going to have a big impact with the launch in the product and the campaign.
Rebecca: So at HubSpot are the marketing communication resources, sort of a shared resources that are outside of product marketing group, or are they within the product marketing group?
Marcus: Um, what do you mean exactly the communication resource?
Rebecca: Like the marketing execution resources. Are those part of your product marketing team or are they a separate team that is a partner for you guys as you build out collateral and programs?
Marcus: Yeah, so there’s a lot of we have a ton of partner teams in our marketing work. So we’ve got a big marketing team, and that includes yeah, communication team customer marketing team design resources social media team. We have our HubSpot Academy team, which sits in marketing and so all of these are partner teams for us, and usually when we have one of these p-one launches kind of the highest priority, there’s already alignment from leadership.
But generally, we work with these teams to kind of you know will work with product put together the plan put together messaging creative concepts all the research. And then we do sort of this roadshow element where we’ll go out to those teams get them excited brief them and then they’re doing, you know, the actual creative work or writing, writing the press releases and that sort of thing.
Rebecca: And so that’s exactly the question I was going to get to you is that, what do you guys use to hand off all of that sort of product knowledge and market contacts that you guys have on your team to some of those partner teams?
So it sounds like you do a roadshow. Do you have documents that you use? Is there a brief product free for a launch before a campaign brief that you use to kick those off?
Marcus: Yeah, so there’s always a sort of a launch plan and launch document, and included in that is all of the at least the findings and insights from the research that we’ve done you know there are goals that we’ve set with the product team. There is the messaging and positioning that we’ve built, there’s information around the target market. So, you know, it’s, there’s a tight brief that has everything that you would need as a customer marketing team, hopefully, or whatever team to build everything that you were going to build to support the campaign.
So that yes that Doc is always a doc for those launches, which is very helpful.
The wiki. We have a wiki that we use internally, which is super helpful for those launches as well, which usually mirrors a doc like that. But it’s probably a little bit simpler and has a little bit more information for the broader company.
We use a loom a lot as a tool. So, you know, let’s say we need to brief a team. Especially globally or people you know who have like a larger team or it’s harder to reach them. And I want to do it asynchronously so that we can send them something that they can watch on their own time, we’ll do a loom those work especially well for you know demoing the product or walking someone through positioning, like a lot of the time that launch doc will include a, like a deck with the messaging or a memo with the messaging.
So we use loom as a tool, we definitely use docs, and then I think what’s most effective is, you know, going to team meetings that still works really, really well. Just as part of a roadshow so basically, you know, making the rounds to all the different directors on the marketing teams and talking to them in their teams and just giving them a chance to ask questions and really absorb it and understand it works really well.
Yeah. And then when we do get into kind of the launch cadence will also often work with a Project Manager from the product team. I don’t know how many product marketing teams do this but personally, I’m not a great project manager. It’s just not. I was just wasn’t born with it.
So it’s really nice to have someone who can come in with, you know, real project management experience and run kind of the launch product project cadence, so that’s another great resource that we use. And then there’s always some sort of like weekly meeting or bi-weekly meeting once we really get into the launch when it was going to get really close to the launch date that really helps keeps the teams aligned. So those are kind of the different tools and mechanisms we use.
Rebecca: And then, and so you’ve been there four years – what in that time, I’m sure you guys need to evolve and tighten up your launch processes. Is there one thing that in that four years that you discovered or that you’ve added to it that you think was just really been a key part as to why you’ve had successful launches?
Marcus: It’s a great question. I mean, I think the biggest thing I don’t know if this is a lame answer, but I mean, the biggest thing is probably just to focus and alignment, you know, the especially as we’ve grown it’s just so important to have, you know, the team and your window of kind of opportunity and all the resources that you have aligned so we’ve figured out different ways of doing that and it changes almost every year.
But at first, when I joined it was a bit of every team is kind of doing their own thing. And we’re going to have a ton of stuff going on all the time and that becomes pretty unsustainable really quickly as you grow and get bigger. So we have figured out ways to just get way more organized and just really prioritize the things that we launched and the stories that we tell and that has helped in a huge way. You know, we have our inbound conference every year, which was where we launch the majority of we were to do a lot of launches. And so that becomes kind of the, you know, the focal point of the year for launches, but we launched it. Other times, too but the way that we prioritize for that and how we kind of go into that season and focus has been the one thing that I think is just really, really helped our marketing team or product team and HubSpot in general.
Rebecca: You guys just did inbound like in the last couple of weeks. Yes?
Marcus: Yeah. Yep. It was last week.
Rebecca: So, are you recovering, are you okay?
Marcus: Yeah, this is what I took. I took Monday off which was a nice way to catch my breath. Um, but yeah, it was, it was is a super great event. We had a wonderful year this year is bigger than ever, we launched a lot of products. So it was it was great. Were you there was anybody from the team?
Rebecca: Not from our team, but one of our partners that we work really closely with. He was there. So he was telling me a little bit about it. He always gives me a good demo. And I always want to go, since I’m from Boston. I’m going to get there.
Marcus: Yeah, you got to come sometime. It’s a blast.
Rebecca: Yes, any big takeaways from that’s a flip conversation completely, but any big takeaways from the conference this year?
Marcus: Yeah, I mean from a product perspective, this year, it was really just about, you know, solving for the customer, I think. Like last probably the last two years, we’ve just launched more products than ever. It has been just, you know, we’re in a stage where the, where the product and the suites or have expanded so quickly that it’s been, you know, it’s a lot for customers to download. It’s a lot for our partners to download. It’s a lot for us internally to download and so this year has been way more about, like, all right, let’s not launch lots of good products, let’s launch, you know, great things. And let’s make what we have even better.
And it was, it was really good for us. I think as a way to just kind of refocus on the customer and the customer experience and really align on the things that are going to make HubSpot better like you know HubSpot needed to be faster and it needed to have better organizational systems and, you know, the free tools needed to do more and be more usable and more user friendly.
And those aren’t always the things that I think as a product marketer. You want to stand up and scream about but they’re super important and our customers care about them tremendously so I think it’s smart to use a year to focus on stuff like that. Every once in a while. And that’s what we did this year. So that was really kind of a focus for us.
Rebecca: You know, and I think that’s true. Right. It’s not as sexy of a story to be like, and now we’ve gotten rid of some technical debt. Right, but it is really important. If you don’t do that. You just keep adding new things on top of that, that deficit, and that really gets more burdensome on the customer. So I think that’s a very smart thing. And I think sometimes doing less, but doing it better is a really good way to improve your products and support your customers.
Marcus: Yeah, totally agree. Yeah, it’s tough. As a marketer. I think you always want to be, you know, talking about what’s new and interesting and exciting but um yeah it’s not always what you know your customers are interested in, or it’s not always what’s best. And yeah, I think you’re totally right doing fewer things better is really important.
Rebecca: Yeah, I remember we were fixing one thing in a previous software company worked with and I was like, what am I supposed to do for release day like this feature, no longer sucks. Like, I mean it was hard but it was such a difference when we fix it. It’s just not quite as compelling a story.
Marcus: Yeah. Definitely well you know I mean your users will care, though. It’s funny. Oh, I think we’ve put like we put folders and workflows, and how excited. People were some people were about folders and workflows really blew my mind. So you know, the people who really care or use it a lot really care.
Rebecca: Well when I think of certain products. And I think HubSpot is one of them. It’s such a user word-of-mouth community ground product that and really today more and more with all products, you have to take care of those first. That is what is going to bring the new customers, those kinds of things that alleviate their stress points makes them bigger advocates and more vocal advocates of your products.
Marcus: Totally. No, it’s very true. And like I think yeah I mean today you know, every industry is so driven by word of mouth and online reviews and that like social proof is what people are looking for online and yeah, it’s just a competitive just a big competitive advantage if you can build your base of advocates and people who really love your product and what we’ve seen a lot of recently, too, is that you know, part of the way we’ve grown over the last three or four years is that someone will leave a job, someone will have used HubSpot at an agency and then they will go in the house to a start-up and the question will come up of, you know what, what
CRM should we use what marketing automation systems for us what helped us surely is and the people who’ve been using HubSpot, you know, in the past, and had a good experience with it, it’s a no brainer for them to use HubSpot again and so that is just another way of like, you know, you’ve got to solve your customers and really get to focus on them, but um it’s amazing to hear stories about people who are kind of taking HubSpot with them because they’ve had such a good experience. So just another reason to really focus on that.
Rebecca: I have to say, of all the sort of big three marketing CRM and there’s probably more, but the big three that I think about HubSpot fans are truly the ones who are most passionate, right. The rest of it. Yeah. It’s good. I like. It’s okay. I could use either one. It doesn’t really matter but HubSpot fans are like, no it’s this one. Okay, so that’s a good sign you doing good things over there. That means
Marcus: Yeah, it’s great. That is the kind of stuff when we hear that too. It gets us fired up. So glad you said that as well. Yes.
Rebecca: All right, Marcus. We’ve talked a lot about a lot of different things today. If you could get our listeners to do two things differently tomorrow, based on what we talked about today, what would that be?
Marcus: Alright, so the first is so the first of your, your product marketer. If you’re a marketer in general, I think we’re really in this world of like everything you do has to have the voice of the customer in it. And I think I came to this real realization. When I started working on our services product. But today, your customers are your best marketers and if you as a marketer don’t have the voice of the customer built into your product pages and your launches and you know, everything you do your marketing is just not going to land as well as it did a few years ago, I think people today are very, I think trust is that, you know.